By Sam McPherson
Looked at with an objective eye, the final score today—Jets 19, Raiders 14—makes it look like the Oakland defense did its job on the road, and the blame for the Raiders loss rests on an offense led by a rookie quarterback.
But looks can be deceiving.
In reality, the defense didn’t do its job, and the rookie QB did all he could to make the game as close as it was, considering he got next to no help from his running game.
So the Raiders lost their season opener for the third year in a row, and even if it’s a moral victory to lose by only five points, moral victories don’t count for much in the National Football League.
Carr acquitted himself nicely in his first NFL game against a tough defense on the road. It would have been asking a lot of any rookie quarterback to win a game like this, and everyone knows even Peyton Manning went just 3-13 in his first professional season. Carr is not Peyton Manning, but again, he did just fine in this one.
He completed 20 of his 32 pass attempts, which is pretty good. But there wasn’t a lot of yardage associated with that mild success. With just 151 yards through the air, Carr couldn’t get the ball downfield enough, and he was sacked twice for 18 yards in losses.
Positively, he didn’t commit any turnovers, and that’s definitely something to be appreciative of in the effort. That kind of maturity in this kind of situation goes a long way to showing why Carr was chosen to start the season as a rookie: the potential definitely is there for him to become a very good NFL quarterback in the next few seasons. GRADE: B-
Beyond Carr’s efforts, there wasn’t a lot of help from the running game; 15 total carries for 25 yards meant the Jets did the wise thing and plugged the gaps to force the rookie to beat them. But the Raiders have too much talent at running back to put up those kind of ridiculously-bad numbers, even on the road against a good defense.
Maurice Jones-Drew netted just 11 yards on nine carries. He turned in some stinkers last year with Jacksonville, too, so maybe it’s just another sign MJD is washed up. Strangely, his longest carry was 12 yards, so on the other eight carries … you do the math.
But when no other running backs can do any damage, either, then you know it was just a bad day for the team as a whole. Darren McFadden had just four carries for 15 yards—by far the best on the team—and fullback Marcel Reece didn’t gain anything on his one carry in this game.
That kind of running game gives even the best QBs a tough day, so Carr did what he could. Both Rod Streater and James Jones snared touchdowns on the day, which was a highlight for the receiving corps, and Mychal Rivera also had three catches. Carr spread the ball around to nine different receivers on the day; that’s both a good and bad sign.
Good, because the rookie used the whole field; bad, because no one receiver was routinely able to get open and burn the Jets defense. That contributed to a very ugly 3-for-12 effort on third downs. GRADE: D
The best thing here was giving up only 19 points, because in gaining 402 yards, the Jets should have scored more. Just look at some of the stat lines: QB Geno Smith completed 23 of 28 passes for 221 yards. He also ran for 38 yards. He did commit his usual two turnovers, but the Raiders couldn’t stop the offense at all.
Chris Ivory ran for 102 yards on just ten carries, including a huge 71-yard TD run. Chris Johnson had 68 yards on 13 carries. Toss in Smith’s running yardage, and the Raiders gave up 212 yards on the ground, at a 6.2 yards-per-carry clip. That’s just not going to get it done in the NFL. This enabled the Jets to hold the ball for almost 35 minutes of the game, wearing out the Oakland defense in the process.
The two turnovers, of course, were a plus, but it didn’t matter much in the end as the Jets built a 13-7 lead into the fourth quarter before Ivory’s TD run sealed the deal. It was a backbreaker, in truth, the kind of play this defense just can’t afford to give up in a tight game—or any game. GRADE: D
Nothing significant happened on special teams, which means the Raiders missed a big chance to steal the road win. Marquette King was solid on his punts, and other than giving up a 44-yard kickoff return, the Oakland special teams units did fine. Running back Latavius Murray handled the kickoff returns and had a nice 38-yard effort himself. GRADE: B
All is Not Lost
The Raiders return home now to host the Houston Texans in the home opener next Sunday. The Texans were surprise winners today, beating the Washington Redskins, 17-6. Of course, Houston was the worst team in the league last year, and Oakland won this matchup in 2013. So the Raiders have a chance next week to even out their record and get their first win in front of the hometown fans this year.
That would be nice, but the defense will have to get better—as will the running game. If you win in the NFL with rushing and defense, then it’s pretty obvious why the Raiders didn’t win today.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.